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President Nixon departs for China

By @ 02/17/95 in February

nixonFebruary 17, 1972

When President Richard Nixon entered the White House, he was one of the staunchest anti-communists in America.  Two decades prior, communists came to power in China, one of the biggest countries in the world, and Western leaders like Nixon saw it as a threat.  However, he soon began to realize that relations between America and China needed to soften, not only because he needed China’s help in ending the Vietnam War, but also because it could be a strong ally against the Soviet Union, a more serious rival of the US at the time.  Urged by his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, Nixon announced in July of 1971 that he would be visiting China on a “journey for peace.”  He left the following February, and arrived in the world’s most populous nation in its capital, Beijing.  Nixon’s visit did little to win the Vietnam War, and barely warmed the tensions of the Cold War, but it did help to normalize relations between two of the world’s most powerful countries.  It introduced a whole new philosophy of foreign relations to Americans – a policy that Kissinger called “realpolitik.”  Nixon set an example for future presidents to deal with other superpowers with reason and practicality, instead of traditional political doctrine and ethics.

What is the meaning of foreign relations and diplomacy?  Why is it important for our leaders to have good diplomatic skills?